A few decades before she foxtrotted her way across the ballroom on Dancing With the Stars, or even graced the screen of many a Lifetime movie, Nancy McKeon was one half of what 70’s and ‘80’s teens might call a Hollywood power-sib-duo. According to IMDB, she and older brother Philip seem to have booked a good amount of gigs, becoming perhaps the Jimmy and Kristy MacNichol of the Carter Administration years, if you will? While Nancy’s Jo Polniaczek joined a gaggle of Eastland girls on The Facts of Life, Philip’s Tommy Hyatt served as the sole precocious child in a cast of adults on Alice……that is, save for a few memorable episodes featuring a younger crowd that included sis Nancy, sporting that signature ponytail long before Ariana Grande made it cool.
1978’s “Who Ordered The Hot Turkey?” aptly captures the warm and cozy atmosphere of a sitcom Thanksgiving in a most familiar setting. Viewers find the crew at Mel’s Diner hosting the holiday dinner for a group of orphans while contending with the dilemma of tracking down the poultry that animal-loving Vera set free before the first commercial break. Nancy appears as, you guessed it, one of the orphans, along with another half of a famous ‘80’s duo. Look closely and it’s impossible to miss the mischievous childhood mug of one of the two Coreys. (On a side note, if pre-fame guest appearances are what you seek, Alice is a jackpot of gold. Aside from Corey Feldman, Kim Richards, Jay Leno, Robert “Freddie Krueger” England, and Bill Maher – yes, Bill Maher as a bumbling police officer – are but a few faces who dined at Mel’s.)
The episode features that identifiable shot of Vic Tayback carrying a huge turkey on a silver platter across the diner, featured in the opening credits. Not to provide any spoilers, but the contents of the “turkey” platter are what catapults the mayhem that ensues. The true gem of the episode, if you ask this ‘80’s child, however, is the comfortably nostalgic look of the decor. The toasty orange and red glows of the plastic hanging turkeys and the blushing bloom of the paper mache table adornments give off the warm and fuzzies as much as any heartfelt “very special” storyline.
Interestingly enough, another holiday episode served as the second opportunity for the McKeon siblings to share the screen. 1982’s “Alice’s Halloween,” featuring that ever popular “we brought the wrong kid home” storyline, possesses a similarly comforting retro Halloween mood, complete with costumes for the entire cast. I guess even the folks in TV land know that families come together for holidays.
This Thanksgiving, while waiting for the turkey to brown in the oven, check your local listings for “Who Ordered the Hot Turkey”……there’s nothing like some good childhood TV served with an extra helping of coziness. Who knows….maybe the McKeon’s might be tuning in as well!
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